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Tradition in Literature


The author of a literary work “robes” it in an appropriate “literary attire”. This not only brings literature closer to folklore, but, as in folklore too, introduces a special element of improvisation into Old Russian literary creation, giving it a collective, traditional nature. The more strictly the author follows the traditions of literary convention, the easier it is for him to create new works within the framework of a given tradition. As a result Old Russian literary works are not separated from one another by strict divisions, their text is not fixed by precise ideas about literary ownership. The collective, choral element is strong in Old Russian literature, the same choral element that is so characteristic of Russian music as well. To a certain extent the works repeat familiar forms and therefore possess a certain “fluidity”, instability of text which in the overall literary process not only “blurs” the chronological limits, but also creates the illusion of the literary process being slowed down. We say the illusion, because in fact Old Russian literature developed fairly quickly. Its ‘development was no slower than in the modern period, but it is more difficult to grasp and harder to define.

There are also certain aspects of the development of Russian literature, however, that facilitate our observation of it, above all, its close link with the historical process, in other words, the distinctive, very clearly expressed mediaeval historicism of Old Russian literature.